Summer School: Day Four

Piotr Wegorowski and Jessica Bradley

The fourth day of the summer school focused on multimodality. Multimodality in translanguaging research had emerged as a strong theme throughout the week, starting with the sessions led by Li Wei and continuing across the linguistic landscape session, Adrian’s workshop on translanguaging and the body, our impromptu workshop by the Mobile Deaf project team and the capoeira research presented by the Leeds team.

Positioning translanguaging in communicative practice

We started the day with something completely different and quite unexpected. Cardiff-based Dr Frances Rock and colleague Dr Rachel Hurdley led a workshop based on translanguaging and multimodality which began with us being asked to leave the room. We had to ‘leave this room to go and observe, alone nearby (indoors or out)’. Our instructions continued…’explore, soak up, wander’…(and be back by 9.45am sharp!). We were asked to pay attention to how it felt and what we noticed.

As ethnographers this is part of our research training. We observe, explore, soak it all up, and wander, and these actions are integral to our research approach. On our return to the room we were introduced to the Cardiff research sites and the focus for the workshop. Frances and team, which included Research Fellow Amal Hallak and doctoral researcher Piotr Wegorowski, had worked in the Cathays area of the city.

Frances and Rachel then considered the concept of the linguistic repertoire and how it might be expanded. Drawing from the work of John Gumperz among others, they considered how the ‘linguistic repertoire’ might then also draw on phenomenological approaches to the notion of repertoire, or, as described by Betsy Rymes, the ‘accummulation of architectural layers’ (Rymes, 2014:190).

Moving on to consider multimodality and translanguaging, the focus then shifted towards the relationship between linguistic ethnography – as an approach to research – and multimodality. For Frances and Rachel, a ‘multimodal methodology’ can be defined as follows:

  • the study of communicative practices which are conducted multimodally;
  • the study of communicative practices in their multimodal context;
  • the study of communicative practices using methodologies which explicitly orient to multimodality

We were then invited to consider how multimodal approaches to research could be manifest in study design, in data collection and in analysis. With this as a framework, Rachel then introduced ideas around drawing as radical multimodality. For Rachel, drawing is not just for artists and children, and definitely not just for people who are ‘talented’. Instead, drawing can be a way of helping us think, understand and remember. It can help us solve problems and communicate. Using examples from her own research, Rachel demonstrated how drawing can be used during the research process and as collaborative practice. Frances then talked to us about the ways in which drawing was used across the Cardiff case study in the shop during the business phase and when observing the football coach during the sports phase. We were then all given sheets of paper and a pencil and asked to go back and continue the miniature tour through making some sketches.

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Our task…

Our sketches 

The workshop got us all thinking – not just about multimodality within our research data but about multimodality as a research method and as an analytical process. It was a welcome and stimulating workshop, giving us much to think about and much to take away in terms of our own research.

Translanguaging as research practice

After lunch we heard from a TLANG panel led by Professor Angela Creese which focused on the processes and methods of researching in a multilingual team. Dr Lisa Goodson from Department of Social Policy and Social Work the University of Birmingham who led the practitioner research programme (PRP) for the project. This was integral to the TLANG methodology of working with key participants in each of the four case studies and across each of the four phase of the research. Lisa suggested that as researchers in social settings we need to consider ways of researching which engage with communities. According to Lisa, universities need to find new visions to enable them to develop this work and their engagement with the cities and wider areas in which they are situated. One way to do this is through working with community researchers. The PRP programme enables researchers based in communities to gain accreditation for their work and their skills. Moreover, working with researchers within communities allows us to carry out research with populations who may otherwise be hidden. As a group we talked about the problematic of defining communities particularly in terms of a ‘place-based’ idea. We discussed how important it is to find commonalities rather than focusing on difference.

Angela then talked about linguistic ethnography as an approach to research and the realities of working in a multilingual project team. Jolana Hanusova, from the Leeds case study and Rachel Hu from the Birmingham case study both then described their own experiences of being researchers on the team and their observations from the field. This presentation offered crucial insights into the lived experiences of researching in this way and how the research methods developed in different ways across the different sites.

Finally, we finished the day with something completely unexpected. Janice Connolly (aka Mrs Barbara Nice!) from Birmingham-based theatre group Women in Theatre who led some performance based workshops with us. She reassured us that she wasn’t going to make us do anything scary…and we then went outside into the rose garden by the School of Education to play a game many of us remembered from our childhoods – what time is it Mr Wolf?

Playing ‘what time is it, Mr Wolf?’ (perhaps unexpectedly…)

After warming us up, we then split up into groups to work together to ‘perform’ our research. Together we identified an aspect of our research – either a finding or an observation from the field – and developed it collaboratively into something that we could perform. We then watched each others’ performances, which were followed by an explanation of what we had seen and why the group had decided to perform it in that way. This activity followed the morning workshops well, continuing to develop our understandings of how we could use creative methods in our research.

Performing our research

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